The booking of flights has evolved significantly in our lifetimes, moving from a process handled by traditional travel agents to self-serve, web-based services that compare and contrast flights on offer, providing travelers with expanded visibility of options. As airlines face rising costs and tighter margins as a result of the pandemic and labor shortages, many are looking to save on distribution costs by reinventing the way they do business. One major airline is innovating a new way of booking flights by partnering with a Big Four firm to leverage blockchain technology.
An anonymous source claims the two firms—American Airlines and consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY)—are test-driving a new way of cutting out middlemen by booking flights for EY employees with Winding Tree, an Ethereum-based, decentralized travel marketplace that uses blockchain technology. EY employs over 310,000 workers globally and is the fifth biggest travel spender on domestic flights, having shelled out $346.8 million for employee flights in 2019. The sheer scale of EY’s travel business makes for a significant trial, with similarly sized implications for other airlines and corporations.
“We’re always looking for innovative ways to give our customers access to American’s content in the way that’s most convenient for them,” said Neil Geurin, Managing Director of Digital and Distribution at American Airlines. “Winding Tree provides a frictionless approach to achieving this goal, and we look forward to working closely with them.”
Winding Tree was founded in 2016 on the belief that many current travel industry problems like high commission fees, outdated tech, significant barriers to entry, and a lack of innovation were driven by over-centralization. The organization operates a platform running on the Ethereum blockchain and has a goal of connecting travel providers like airlines, hotels, and rental agencies to both leisure and business travelers, including their employers. By empowering travelers to connect directly with travel businesses, Winding Tree hopes to provide an open-source, decentralized solution to ultimately reduce costs and simplify travel for everyone.
With businesses slowly embracing blockchain-based services, the results of this latest move should prove to be an excellent opportunity to test whether or not the new technology can deliver on its theoretical promise and perform at scale.